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Ovarian Cancer Overview

The Ovaries

The ovaries are two small, oval-shaped organs in the pelvis (the area between the hips in the lower part of the tummy). They're part of the female reproductive system, which is made up of the ovaries, fallopian tubes, womb (uterus), cervix and vagina.

Each month, in women of childbearing age, one of the ovaries produces an egg. The egg passes down the fallopian tube to the womb. If the egg isn't fertilized by a sperm, it passes out of the womb. It's then shed, along with the lining of the womb, as part of the monthly period.

The ovaries also produce the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone. As a woman nears the menopause, the ovaries make less of these hormones and periods gradually stop.

Organs close to the ovaries

There are several organs close to the ovaries. These include:

  • the bladder
  • the ureters, which drain urine from the kidneys to the bladder
  • the back passage (rectum)
  • part of the bowel (see the last diagram below)
  • the peritoneum, a membrane that surrounds all the pelvic and abdominal organs and helps keep them in place (see the last diagram below)
  • the omentum - a fatty membrane made up of a fold of the peritoneum at the front of the abdomen, which extends from the lower curve of the stomach and covers the front of the bowel groups of lymph nodes
  • the womb.

If ovarian cancer spreads to the lymphatic system, it′s most likely to go to lymph nodes in the pelvis.